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Tuesday, 13 November 2018 13:42
The city of Trikala honored its 139 citizens of Jewish faith, perished in the Nazi concentration camps by unveiling a tear-shaped Holocaust Memorial, in a ceremony which has been attended by Holocaust survivors, IHRA diplomatic representatives, and Jews from all over Greece. The three-day celebration in Memory of the Holocaust, from the 9th to the 11th of November 2018, reached its highest point at the unveiling ceremony of an outstandingly carved symbolic monument. At the entrance of the old Jewish quarter of Trikala, at the pedestrian walkway on Ploutonos street, a tear formed by railways with an olive tree in the center, reminds the long deportation journey that Jews from Trikala and other Greek cities had to take aboard the "death trains" on their way to the extermination camps. Only a few of them survived, like 97 year old Naki Bega, an Auschwitz survivor, and Victor Venouziou, a hidden child, who honored the ceremony with their presence. A marble column lies close to the Monument and an inscription in three languages - Greek, Hebrew and English - reminds the city about the character of this Memorial and the duty of the society.

The events have been a point of reference, not only in Greece but in several foreign countries, as well. These were co-organized by the Italian Embassy, on the occasion of this year’s Italian chairmanship of IHRA (the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), the Municipality of Trikala, the Greek delegation to IHRA, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the Jewish Museum of Greece, with the cooperation and support of the Jewish Communities of Thessaloniki and Trikala, the Italian School of Athens and the Tsitsanis Museum. Ambassadors and representatives of 14 countries were also present: Italy, the Czech Republic, Luxemburg, Israel, Switzerland, Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Portugal, Hungary, Poland,Romania, Uruguay and the United States of America.

During his speech, on Friday November 9, 2018, at the inauguration ceremony of the exhibition of the Jewish Museum of Greece titled: "The Holocaust of the Jews of Greece 1941-1944, personal testimonies", held at the Tsitsanis Museum, (to remain open till the 17th of November), Mr. Dimitris Papastergiou, Mayor of Trikala, gave the tinge: "Close to Lithaios river, the river of oblivion, we keep our memories alive", he stated. Mentioning the Memorial, the Mayor emphasized the importance and symbolism of these tears for his perished fellow citizens as this monument brings their memory back to Trikala.  

In that same spirit, referring to the responsibility for the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, were the speeches of Mr. David Saltiel, President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and of H.E. Mr. Luigi Marras, Ambassador of Italy to Greece. The words of the President of the Jewish Community of Trikala, Mr. Jakob Venouziou, were much more emotional and highly charged as he referred to people and incidents that marked the persecutions in Trikala, while he emphasized the assistance and support given by the Christian Orthodox inhabitants of Trikala toward their Jewish fellow citizens, underlining that Trikala and the region of Thessalia, in general, have had the smallest Jewish casualties in comparison to other Greek districts.

The unveiling ceremony started with a memorial service (Ashkavah) by the Rabbi of Larissa, Mr. Elias Sabetai and religious hymns sang by the choir of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki. At the end a tribute of a minute of silence was observed and then the Philharmonic band of the Municipality of Trikala played the Greek National Anthem, in a highly emotional atmosphere.

«ALL TOGETHER, ALLIED against extremist ideologies»

During the main event held at "Athanasios Trigonis" cultural center, on Saturday, 10th of November 2018, all speeches addressed to the public were of high importance. All of them focused on the need to stand united against any extreme ideology.

Mr. Dimitris Papastergiou, Mayor of Trikala, Mr. David Saltiel, President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, H.E. Mr. Luigi Marras, Ambassador of Italy to Greece, Mr. Efstathios Lianos-Liantis, Head of the Greek delegation to IHRA and Mr. Mikis Modiano, Vice-president of the Jewish Museum of Greece, addressed the audience.

At that same time an exhibition titled: "The German Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz- Birkenau", organized by the State Museum of Auschwitz, under the care of the Polish Embassy in Greece, was presented at the entrance hall of the Cultural Center of Trikala. The exhibition will remain open to the public till the 17th of November.  

The main event also included, the presentation of a shortcut of the film "Kisses to the Children" by Trikala-born director Vassilis Loules, referring to the rescue of some Jewish kids by Christian Greeks and the way these kids experienced the loss of their relatives during the Holocaust.

At the end of the evening, the Orchestra of the Municipality of Trikala presented a program on themes of Greek composers based on the Holocaust.

Books, exhibitions, music

During the first day of the events, after the inauguration the Jewish Museum of Greece exhibition titled: "The Holocaust of the Jews of Greece 1941-1944, personal testimonies", held at the Tsitsanis Museum, two important events were organized: The first was a speech delivered by historian, researcher and author Mr. Kostas Michalakis, who spoke about "Pupils' list in the 3rd Elementary School of Trikala - an ark in the open seas of history". The second one was the presentation of the book "Luna" by Rika Benveniste (edit. Polis 2017). It is an essay of a historic biography where Luna, the principal character "opens a path to remember the Jews of Thessaloniki and their home town, the Shoah, the poverty and the obnoxious years after the war". The book was presented by historian Odette Varon - Vassard, Hellenic Open University, by historian Maria Kavala, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and by the author Prof. Dr. Rika Benveniste, professor at the university of Thessalia. Med. Dr.  Moises Elissaf, Professor of internal medicine at the University of Ioannina and President of the Jewish Community of Ioannina, was he moderator.

The first day of the celebrations ended with an outstanding concert by soprano Mariangela Chatzistamatiou, accompanied by Nikos Panayiotidis (guitar), Maestro Kostis Papazoglou (flute) and Marini Peikidou (viola) who interpreted Greek, Italian, Sephardic and Romaniot songs, exciting the audience and lighting up old memories.  


Greek Town Commemorates its Holocaust History, bMargarita Gokun Silver, TABLET, January 10, 2019


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